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Stopping the rise of HAIs

Stopping the rise of HAIs

When you think of modern medicine, shiny stethoscopes, prescription pills, and fancy machines probably come to mind. However, as I recently learned, there’s more to modern medicine than meets the eye. Sometimes serving a proper meal or making sure every surface in a room is spotless can have just as big of an impact on sending a patient home happy and healthy as a state-of-the-art high-resolution, digital MRI.

And that’s exactly the point that Pocahontas Community Hospital dietary and housekeeping director Mary Crosgrove hoped to make when we spoke about her departments’ contributions to patient health.

“We follow a doctor’s diet orders to a ‘T.’ We want to ensure the health of the patient at all times,” relayed Crosgrove, who is both a certified dietary manager and certified food protection professional.

Which is to say, Crosgrove’s job is to make sure that all patients receive fully-balanced, nutritious - and delicious - meals that meet any special requirements they may have while also ensuring that all food served in the hospital is prepared to the highest safety standards in the land. “We strive to care for the patient by offering them choices and decisions for their meal menus. We want their stay here to be pleasant.”

At the same time, Crosgrove and her staff have to keep up-to-date on the every changing dietary standards set forth by state and national agencies. Think food pyramids and portion plates and you begin to get the picture. “One of the biggest challenges with nutrition is that it’s like a ‘baby science’ - it’s constantly changing every year,” she related.

Take, for example, salt - we’ve all been conditioned to consume as little salt as possible; it’s bad for the ticker after all. As it turns out, Crosgrove said, the latest dietary standards manual raises the sodium floor from 1,500 to 2,300 milligrams. Now, 2,300 still isn’t a ton of salt - the salt packet you find at a restaurant is typically 200 milligrams and virtually everything you eat contains added salt. Still, Crosgrove and her crew must constantly keep up with those changes to ensure patients’ needs are met.

As for housekeeping, Crosgrove outlined the extensive regimen the staff uses to keep the hospital in tip-top shape. Bathroom rags and mops can’t be used to clean patient rooms, and vice versa -all while anything used to clean in one room cannot be used in another room before being laundered. Why so serious, you ask?

“Because we can’t risk spreading germs from one room to another,” Crosgrove pointed out, adding that the staff are especially on the lookout for “high touch” surfaces - door knobs, faucets, remotes, furniture arms, bed rails, etc., because those surfaces are basically breeding grounds for the germs and bacteria that lead to hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) - which have been rising rapidly around the country.

Thankfully, at PCH, there were no HAIs during the most recent 12-month reporting period. That feat, said director of inpatient care Susie Aden, is a testament to the tremendous work done by the housekeeping staff. “It is through a combined effort of all PCH staff in adhering to infection control best practice standards that allows us to report these positive findings.”

Or, as Crosgrove put it, “Our housekeeping staff is the first line of defense in infection control. If you come to our hospital, you’ll see that it shines and shows.”

All 55,000 square feet of it. And that’s how a proper meal and a spotless room can have just as big of an impact on a patient’s health as the most expensive piece of technology in the building.

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